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  • Nothin’ But Trouble – The Forgotten, Underrated Sophomore Effort from John Sykes and Blue Murder!

    Nothin' But Trouble is the second and final studio album from Blue Murder, released in 1993. John Sykes was the only band member remaining from the band's legendary 1989 debut.
    Nothin’ But Trouble is the second and final studio album from Blue Murder, released in 1993. John Sykes was the only band member remaining from the band’s legendary 1989 debut.

     

     

    Blue Murder was a supergroup that took the world by storm in 1989. Following his exile from Whitesnake, all eyes were on guitar virtuoso John Sykes, whose previous credits also included work with Thin Lizzy and the Tygers of Pan Tang. People were eager to hear what Sykes would end up doing next, and he proved it in a big way, uniting with bassist Tony Franklin (The Firm) and drummer Carmine Appice (Vanilla Fudge, King Kobra) to form the supergroup Blue Murder. Sykes handled vocal duties in the new group at the behest of music industry legend John Kalodner. Their debut album was a phenomenal release featuring classic after classic; it was every bit as much the equal of anything any of these musicians recorded in their prior bands. Many have regarded Blue Murder as a one album wonder…. but they DID have a sophomore release that time forgot.

    Joining the band in the places of Franklin and Appice were bassist Marco Mendoza (later of Whitesnake and Lynch Mob) and drummer Tommy O’Steen, although Franklin and Appice still appear on the majority of the tracks on this second record. The group also hired a standalone vocalist/backing vocalist in the form of Baton Rouge singer Kelly Keeling, however John Sykes ended up overdubbing the majority of Keeling’s lead vocal work for the band’s sophomore album, Nothin’ But Trouble. Thus, on the final album, only one track has Keeling’s lead vocals, while the other tracks only feature his backing vocals. Nothin’ But Trouble would end up being Blue Murder’s second and final studio release; the only other release to have the Blue Murder name was a live album that was released in 1994, although O’Steen and Mendoza would play on Sykes’ follow-up solo record, Out of My Tree.

    The first album from Blue Murder easily ranks amongst my favorite of all time; the trio created a classic for the ages and then some. It was something totally unique, yet did not betray the sounds of the artists’ older bands either, making it something that was truly the best of both worlds. Four years later, it is not likely anyone knew that they would ever get another Blue Murder album after the changes in the music industry that brought about the outbreak of grunge and alternative rock. And yet, Blue Murder DID release a second album! It this another classic for the ages, or is it a lost relic that may as well have remained lost?

    All right, the bad news first; this release is not as good as the first Blue Murder album. Fortunately, that is about the only negative thing that I have to say about Nothin’ But Trouble. This is a very solid album in its own right, which goes to show why John Sykes (who continues taking on vocal duties here) remains one of the most criminally underrated rock and metal guitarists in the world. O’Steen and Mendoza do a solid job filling gaps in the band on the tracks that they play on, though as was previously mentioned, Appice and Franklin are still largely present on ones recorded earlier; this was likely due to the lengthy time in between releases. You still get a diverse album that has no shortage of highlights. Time forgot this album, but that does not mean you have to!

    So, what exactly does Blue Murder’s sophomore album have to offer in terms of content? Quite a lot, actually! Opening cut “We All Fall Down” is one of the fastest, heaviest, and hardest rocking of all Blue Murder songs, making it a choice way to kick off this release. Gears shift completely on the second track, which is a cover of the old Small Faces standard, “Itchycoo Park.” This is a cover song that stays fairly true to the original, but also throws in a few hard rock touches as well, keeping things unique and interesting. Tracks like “Runaway” demonstrate that the band can walk that fine line between ballad and rocker within the same song beautifully. “I’m On Fire” is the one track on which Kelly Keeling’s lead vocal track remains intact, and this is a great bluesy hard rocker that would not have been out of place on one of his Baton Rouge records. Over the course of this release, you get tracks that are musically diverse, yet work well together too. Some work better than others and are more uniquely Blue Murder songs, but there is not a single weak cut on the whole CD. Closer “She Knows” finishes off the album in fine form, as a soft, acoustic-driven number that does a marvelous job wrapping things up.

    Nothin’ But Trouble is an excellent release, even it does not quite hit the same heights of the iconic debut record from 1989. John Sykes and company serve up another batch of excellent songs, and you will soon see further evidence of how talented and underrated a musician he is by listening to everything here. If you do not have any Blue Murder , get the debut album first. But once you have that, you will not want to hesitate to add the underrated-as-hell follow up to your collection. A gem that does not deserve to be forgotten!

     



  • Two Steps from the Move – Rock Candy Records Reissues this Landmark Album as a Two Disc Set!

    Two Steps from the Move, released originally in 1984, is Hanoi Rocks' most famous album and generally regarded as their best work. Rock Candy reissued the album in 2015.
    Two Steps from the Move, released originally in 1984, is Hanoi Rocks’ most famous album and generally regarded as their best work. Rock Candy reissued the album in 2015.

     

    Hanoi Rocks is one of the most criminally underrated bands of all time. Founded in Helsinki, Finland in 1979, the Michael Monroe-fronted group achieved minor success, but never got the chance to be full-on rock superstars (though Monroe has had a modestly successful solo career since then). After years of roughing it and struggling to stay afloat, it seemed like the band was finally about to “make it” in the music world, with growing concert crowds and curious fans all around the globe looking on.

    1984 saw the release of Two Steps from the Move, the band’s fourth studio album of original material. The record was produced by Bob Ezrin (Alice Cooper, KISS) and was by far their most popular record worldwide, featuring a plethora of hit songs and worldwide single releases that were continuing to catapult the band towards successes that now seemed like a certainty. Unfortunately, it was not long after the release of this now classic album that tragedies would  strike. Michael Monroe fractured his ankle, resulting the cancellation of many tour dates on the West Coast of the United States, where a growing fanbase was all the more eager to see and experience the band in concert. A greater tragedy occurred a few days later, when drummer Razzle was killed in a car accident, the car being driven by Motley Crue’s Vince Neil, in an inebriated state. Attempts to hire a new drummer and keep the band afloat failed, and before long at all, they were no more.

    While Hanoi Rocks seldom gets the publicity of many of the bands that were popular on the 80s glam rock scene, they were a massive influence on said bands, in terms of fashion and sound alike. Hanoi Rocks was a unique group with an unusual sound that drew its influences from multiple sources – punk rock, new wave, 70s glam, and just about everything in between. Even with numerous records behind them up to this point, the general consensus is that Two Steps from the Move remains the definitive studio record from the group. Rock Candy Records, who has reissued some of the greatest rock and roll albums of all time over the years, from legendary hit records to obscure, forgotten classics, has now taken it upon themselves to give this oft-forgotten classic the deluxe treatment.

    There are countless classic tracks on this album, and it is not hard at all to see why it has the classic reputation it does with so many fans and musicians alike. Every song on here is strong, and the album keeps your attention throughout; Hanoi Rocks was always good at maintaining a sound all their own, including many musical elements that were not always typical of the era. After all, these musicians were much more seasoned and experienced than a number of the so-called “peers” they have been lumped in with over the years. The record marks the culmination of everything musically they had been doing up to the time. Highlights include the now classic cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Up Around the Bend” that kicks off the album, the punk-flavored rocker “High School”, the eerily melodic “Underwater World”, a remake of the band’s earlier ballad “Don’t You Ever Leave Me,” another terrific 80s-flavored ballad in the form of “Million Miles Away”, and other gems including the title cut and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” The cuts on the album are surprisingly diverse musically; you could envision these being played on anything from a punk radio station to one that specialized in 80s new wave/pop songs, yet they would not be out of place on a hard rock station either. Every Hanoi Rocks album is strong but this is the band’s absolute peak.

    One of the ongoing complaints I have had with Rock Candy’s otherwise fantastic reissues has been, in many cases, a lack of audio bonus material. Well, apparently this is a company that listens to their fans. Not only does this release contain bonus material; you get an entire disc’s worth of it! Hopefully this will be a sign of things to come from the company in the future. Disc One contains the complete classic album, while Disc Two is packed full of rarities. The majority of these are rare bonus tracks from singles that were released back in the day, while the latter four songs are actually pulled from a BBC Friday Rock Show Session, allowing you to hear the band playing in their absolute prime, a mere few months before Razzle’s tragic death. As with Rock Candy’s other reissues, you get a booklet packed with information about the band, rare photos, and other interesting pieces of information. I do not have an earlier CD to compare the audio quality with, but this release of the album sounds fantastic throughout.

    If you are a classic hard rock fan, there is a chance that you already own Two Steps from the Move on some other format, possibly an earlier CD release. And this may be the point where you are asking yourself, should I double dip? The answer is YES. This is, by far, the definitive release of this classic album, and an entire disc’s worth of rare material coupled with thorough liner notes and photos only add to the overall package. For any fan of classic hard rock or heavy metal, Rock Candy Records’ reissue of Two Steps from the Move is a must own.

     



  • Live at XXV – Underrated Classic Hard Rockers Babylon AD Celebrate 20 Years of Rock and Roll with a New Live Album!

    Babylon AD released their Live at XXV live album in March 2015. One of the "release party" concerts was at Count's Vamp'd.
    Babylon AD released their “Live at XXV” live album in March 2015. One of the “release party” concerts was at Count’s Vamp’d.

     

     

    It is a shame how many groups out there, over the years, have never gotten the proper recognition despite having endless amounts of talent. Hailing from the San Francisco area, Babylon AD was one such band. Fronted by Derek Davis, the band is one that had a classic hard rock sound all their own, and the fact that they did not fall back on a shocking, glam-flavored image to gain attention was a major plus as well. Any fan will be quick to tell you that their 1989 self-titled debut ranks amongst the best albums of the genre. Classic cuts like “The Kid Goes Wild”, “Hammer Swings Down”, “Bang Go the Bells”, and “Desperate,” all from this debut record, remain some of the best classic hard rock tracks out there, even if they did not get the recognition that many of their peers achieved; “The Kid Goes Wild” was even featured in the second RoboCop film! There were some modest hits off of their second album a few years later, though sadly this was largely a group time forgot despite their obvious talents amidst an ever changing music industry that is often unkind and cruel.

    Despite the changes in the music industry, Babylon AD continues to push forward in varied band lineups. I had seen Derek Davis perform as a Sin City Sinners guest back in January, and in talking to him after the show, was intrigued to learn that the band had a new live album on deck to celebrate their 25 th anniversary, and an accompanying release party at the venue! Sadly, due to an illness, I missed the event in question. But I finally have the new live album in my hands. How does it hold up in the eyes of this Babylon AD fan?

    Live at XXV is actually the second live album from Babylon AD, the first having been Live in Your Face back in 1999. This is a band that I am pleased has persevered and never given up despite the hardships and the changes in the music world; a group like this deserves to be heard! After 25 years in the industry, what better way is there to celebrate than to get together and release a new live album spanning their career? That is just what Babylon AD has given fans here, and it is unlikely that any fan of the group will be disappointed by the concert on this disc.

    The great thing about Babylon AD is that they still sound as good today as they did when they released their debut album a quarter of a century ago, and they are able to do their thing on the live stage better than most. This album demonstrates that beautifully, as you will be able to see as soon as you pick this release up. Of course, you have all of the obligatory hits from the debut album, but the band is also not afraid to dig into the vault and give fans many of their quality deep cuts as well. What truly impresses this fan is how much energy the band has throughout the release; they sound better than most bands with members half their age. In addition to choice Babylon AD cuts, deep and hits alike, we are presented with two surprise closers – a cover of one of Ronnie Montrose’s classic hits “Rock the Nation,” and one of UFO’s legendary gems, “Lights Out.”

    As far as the production end of things go, the band and crew deserve credit for putting out an album that maintains the gritty, raw rock sound that made them famous, with no overproduction or ridiculous studio overdubs; it sounds like a rock band on stage, and that is what an album like this should always sound like. Unfortunately though, an all too common flaw of many recent live albums presents itself on Live at XXV – the album fades out after each track, which painfully detracts from the live concert feel. Why the hell do bands and producers insist on doing this? (Live in Your Face had the same flaw, for the record.) Apart from that gaping flaw, though, the record itself sounds solid, live, and heavy throughout.

    Overall this is a great addition to the Babylon AD catalogue, and a great way for them to celebrate 25 years in the business of doing what they do best. This band has some of the finest, most underrated rock and roll out there, and it is great to get a quality concert on disc celebrating that fact. The “songs fade out after ever track” flaw is annoying, but apart from that one hiccup, this is a damn good live release from a persevering rock and roll band that deserves far more credit. It is strongly recommended that you add this one to your collection if you are a classic hard rock and heavy metal fan.

     



  • Spirit on a Mission – The Latest Studio Album from the Mad Axeman Himself, Michael Schenker!

    Spirit on a Mission is the third release from Michael Schenker's Temple of Rock, released in March 2015.
    Spirit on a Mission is the third release from Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock, released in March 2015.

     

     

    Amongst guitar gods in the rock and metal world, few come anywhere near the legendary Michael Schenker. His work with the Scorpions, UFO, and his own Michael Schenker Group remain revered all the world round by many a hard rock fan. In more recent years, Schenker has achieved a long awaited return to the musical forefront with his new band, the Temple of Rock. Teaming him up with longtime collaborator Wayne Findlay, former Scorpions members Herman Rarebell and Francis Buchholz, and former Rainbow vocalist Doogie White, Schenker has assembled one of the finest bands that he has ever been a part of. Spirit on a Mission marks the Mad Axeman’s latest release under the new band name.

    This fan is a die-hard lover of Schenker’s classic UFO and Michael Schenker Group/McAuley Schenker Group material, but had not found a truly great Schenker release in quite some time, especially following the disbandment of the McAuley Schenker Group. That was eventually finally remedied a few years ago with the first Temple of Rock release and the accompanying tour; this seemed like Schenker had finally found the perfect way to combine his classic shredding sound with more modern rock elements, giving audiences the best of both worlds (and all too often, artists in the rock and metal world try to modernize with disastrous results).

    So, after much anticipation and two strong albums already released, how does the third studio release from the Temple of Rock stack up? This classic hard rock and metal fan is proud to announce that Schenker and company do not disappoint . The thing that has impressed me about the Temple of Rock albums so far is the fact that Schenker and company have found that perfect middle ground, taking on a more modern rock sound, while at the same time maintaining the classic rock and metal sound that Schenker’s guitar playing helped to revolutionize back in his golden years. Schenker recorded some amazing material back in the 70s and the 80s, and he could have just copied all of that and rehashed it for years. But, one thing I have always admired about Schenker is that he is not that kind of musician. Never content with what already is and has been, Schenker always sets out to be adventurous in the rock world, and while the results are sometimes mixed, one has to admire the Mad Axeman for branching out and trying new things.

    There are many highlights on this album, and Doogie White really rises to the occasion as a vocalist here; he has definitely “found his voice” alongside Schenker and company on this album. Mr. White delivers a phenomenal vocal performance; he is reminiscent of a young Ian Gillan on a number of the tracks, and if that is not a compliment, I do not know what is! The rhythm section consists of two classic Scorpions members, both of whom are still at the top of their game . From straight up hard, heavy and fast songs, to more melodic numbers, Schenker and company definitely hit the high points here and then some. Cuts like opener “Live and Let Live” and “Something of the Night” definitely rank amongst his best songs of the past decade. The hits far exceed the misses; the only dud in the bunch is “Saviour Machine” which comes a little too close to modern rock radio songs, and at a length of six minutes, has no business being the longest track on the CD. But that isa small flaw in the midst of what is one of this year’s top rock albums so far.

    If you are a Michael Schenker fan, or a fan of hard rock and heavy metal in general, Spirit on a Mission is essential listening and definitely worth adding to your collection. Schenker has the best band he has assembled in years, and this is arguably their finest work together so far. With one of rock’s great guitarists back in his element and rocking the world all over again, there is a good bet that Spirit on a Mission is going to have a place on this rock and roll fan’s “Best of 2015” list! Highly recommended.

     



  • Tinnitus Explodes at The Brooklyn Bowl

     

    Just another night in Las Vegas…Never when there is a Tinnitus show!  Team it up with Uberschall and it’s a night of theatrical dimensions and a musical experience like none other.

     

    Just another night in Las Vegas…Never when there is a Tinnitus show! Team it up with Uberschall and it’s a night of theatrical dimensions and a musical experience like none other.

    The Brooklyn Bowl has become quite a venue for music since its opening last year.  Offering its stage to many genres of bands, it has also become a welcome stage by many local artists.  The acoustics are amazing and the louder the better!  Catching a show on a Wednesday night in Vegas is only a pre-cursor to what will be available to locals and tourists alike around the city.

     

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    As the lights dim, the recorded promo coming through the speakers is gut vibrating.  A single trumpeter appears for a dance trumpet solo intro.  Jeff Tortora possesses the stage with wild abandonment; Tinnitus is on fire!  Tortora, lead singer, is also the master of an innovative and sometimes macabre performance.   Tinnitus is well known for its hosts of beautiful and graceful acrobatics, fire breathers, jugglers, tongue piercers and other radical oddities.   Guest appearances are always an added plus with their show.  Jay R Beatbox joined with his extreme addition to Sabotage by the Beastie Boys.  For a slow down moment of the night, Cian Coey takes center stage as she bewitchingly performs Hurt by Christina Aguilera as a lithe and nimble acrobat swings overhead.  Tortora returns as he is adorned with paint; almost in tribal mode as he proclaims Hurt by Nine Inch Nails.  Strings, saxophone and trumpet for Space Oddity by Bowie and straight into more of the fast paced insanity.  No Tinnitus show is complete without a bat yielding Brenda Fitz ready to smash a keg during Duality (Slipknot) or completing the night with Killing In The Name Of (Rage Against The Machine).   Never been to a Tinnitus show? What’s YOUR excuse?

     

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    Tinnitus Set List 3/18/15

    Intro-1020’s Dance/Trumpet, Meantime/Helmet, Bulls On Parade/Rage Against The Machine, A Shogun Named Marcus/Clutch, Art Of Making Enemies/Faith No More, Scentless/Nirvana, Sabotage/Beastie Boys, Hurt/Christina Aguilera, Hurt/Nine Inch Nails, Space Oddity/David Bowie, Beautiful People/Marilyn Manson, My Own Summer (Shove It)/Deftones, Twist & Blind/Korn, Duality/Slipknot, Sugar/System Of A Down, and Killing In The Name Of/Rage Against The Machine.

     

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    EDITOR’S NOTE:  Erika Thomas is a guest writer for ZRock’R  and we can’t wait to see more from her and have her on permanently!  In the meantime, you can check her out at Continuum Vegas for more info!

    PHOTO CREDIT: JustAfan Photography ©2015  Used with Permission/ All Rights Reserved  You can check out the rest of the photos from JustAFan Photography of the show by going here: Tinnitus Photos